A Southerner shares his first experience at a Buc-ee’s
We were on I-75 heading south through Georgia and running late. But once we passed Chattanooga, temptation in the form of Buc-ees billboards was everywhere. The billboards promised seemingly endless rows of gas pumps with cheap gas. Not to mention the cleanest bathrooms in the United States, with enough urinals to service a small town. So, as we approached Calhoun, just slightly north of the halfway point between Chattanooga and Atlanta, the internal monologue vacillated between raging curiosity and the sanctity of making good time.
You see, at the time in Tennessee, we’d only had the promise of Buc-ee’s, home of the world-famous clean bathrooms. The Lone Star State travel center’s multi-state expansion includes Tennessee, but neither the Crossville nor the Sevier County Buc-ee’s locations had yet opened. And so I’d heard fanciful tales of this new travel center. The Guinness World Record holding nirvana promises the cleanest restrooms, a plethora of fueling positions and road snacks that put other stations – with higher gas prices – to shame.
Honestly, the promise of a clean bathroom alone was a great reason to stop. I’ve earned something of a reputation over the years for picking exits whose gas stations leave something to be desired in the clean restrooms department. And so, already tired from the traffic ordeal in Knoxville and dreading the Friday night traffic in Atlanta, I made the command decision to break up the monotony of the road with a Buc-ee’s stop. The decision was massively popular with the whole Gullion clan.
IN THIS ARTICLE
RELATED VIDEO: Why Are People So Obsessed With Buc-ee’s?
Subscribe to our newsletter for area news, coupons and discounts
My initial reaction
The first thing I noticed when approaching a Buc-ee’s store is the size. The campus is massive. When they say everything is bigger in Texas, Buc-ee’s took that to heart and is now spreading it around the country. The New Braunfels, Texas store for example is 66,335 square feet. The one in Calhoun isn’t as big, but it’s nothing to sneeze at. In addition to the largest gas station, Buc-ee’s has a Guinness World Record for the longest car wash at its Katy, Texas location.
At any rate, we were traveling on a holiday and the place was hopping. Heavy traffic made me a little concerned for the kids as we made our way from the parking lot into the store, which resembles nothing more than a cleaner, better-managed and friendlier version of Walmart.
Upon entering, my kids fell in love with Bucky the Beaver. The toothy mascot was a home run. My oldest wanted a set of Buc-ee’s Christmas-themed pajamas and the younger two wanted a stuffed version of the mascot. In fact, I don’t know how much they pay the store mascot but I hope it’s at the higher end of the scale – the kids were all in.
My review of the food and the famous bathrooms
The food? Mixed reviews. The barbecue was fine. Better than you’d perhaps expect from a typical gas station but not the religious experience you’d expect after hearing about it from some of Buc-ee’s acolytes. And I was disappointed with the sausage on a stick. I’m a big fan of foods on a stick, the chicken on a stick served during the Spring Jubilee festival in Selma, Alabama being the best. But the Buc-ee’s sausage wasn’t much better than the stick. The beef jerky, however, was great as was the peanut brittle. So its surprising this travel chain has become famous for its collection of snacks. Fan-favorite Buc-ee’s snacks include but are not limited to:
- Beaver nuggets (not made of actual Beaver)
- Homemade fudge
- Texas barbecue
- Pecan pie
- Fresh pastries
- Peanut butter
- Beef jerky
The only drawback we found is that getting in and out of a Buc-ee’s, especially with a large crew, takes time. Even with the massive Buc-ee’s bathrooms, there were so many people there were lines for the ladies. Plus all the options for shopping and dining don’t lend themselves to a quick in and out.
But why are people so obsessed with Buc-ee’s?
I think there’s a reason Buc-ee’s has earned a reputation that goes far beyond its shining urinal-shaped beacon on a hill. For instance, each Buc-ee’s store is known for its customer service. This may be a result of the fact that the world-record-holding chain pays far above the typical minimum wage for the region it serves. When a new Buc-ee’s location opens, it’s a significant development bringing dozens of new jobs to the area.
In Tennessee, Buc-ee’s reportedly pays more than double the national minimum wage – approaching triple for management positions. Buc-ee’s also offers full benefits including dental insurance. The new locations bring many permanent full-time jobs to the area as well.
Currently, Bucee’s has locations in Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Kentucky with more retail projects planned in South Carolina and Tennessee.
The Sevier County location, now open, is 74,000 square feet. The Travel Center is located at I-40 Exit 407. It features 120 fueling positions, EV charging stations and a 250-foot-long car wash. This location is part of the 200-acre development called “The 407: Gateway to Adventure” which is being developed by Kituwah LLC and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians on land that belonged to the Cherokee for generations and was fairly recently reacquired. When completed, it will feature shops, restaurants, themed experiences, unique photo-ops, parks and hotels but currently no casinos.
The Cherokee have also purchased land across the highway near the Smokies Stadium. It’s reportedly possible – with a change in Tennessee state law – there could be a casino complex there in the coming generations.
Have you visited a Buc-ee’s? Are you excited about the new location? Let us know in the comments. View the web story version of this article here.